Monday, 27 August 2012

The Wines of Campania

As with most of Italy's wine producing regions, it was the Ancient Romans that realised Campania's ideal climate and conditions for wine making, but nowadays Campania's wine production is rarely recognised outside the region and beyond the tourist centres of Amalfi, Naples, Ischia and Capri, Campania itself is a very impoverished region. In terms of wine production Campania can boast 27 DOC, DOCG and IGT wines, but you a true sense of it's significance when you know that these classified wines only account for 5% of the regions total wine production. In actual fact, some of these marks of origin only produce between 13,000 and 16,000 gallons of wine per year. Capri only produces 6340 gallons of wine per year, compare that in terms with Australia and it wouldn't fill a stainless steel storage tank. So it should come as no surprise that names such as Capri Flegrei, Cilento Falerno, Galuccio, Guardiolo, Sannio, or even Salopaca are hardly known outside the region itself.
There are, however, a few exceptions in this in regard to Taurasi, for example. Campania's only DOCG wine, pressed from the same Aglianico grapes that are used to give the neighbouring blended wines of Basilicata their class, comes from the slopes around Avellino. Some good wine makers are turning this wine into a fascinating vintage full of flavour with a fresh, clean bouquet. Aglianico grapes are cultivated in the areas around Campi Flegrei, Cilento, Cosat d'Amalfi, Falerno, Sannio, Saint' Agata de Goti and Solopaca, but unfortunately they rarely achieve the quality of the wines of the Taurasi area. The same province of Avellino, home of Taurasi, also produces Campania's two most interesting white wines, Greco di Tufo and Fiano d'Avellino. The Greco from the area around the village of Tufo is made from the native grape Greco, but is usually blended with the Fallenghina and Biancolella varieties. Greco is a direct decendant of an Ancient Greek grape variety which has both red and white varieties. Whereas the Calabrian Grecco di Bianco is an excellent sweet white wine, the dry Greco di Tufo proves itself by its characterful fruity and almond bouquet.
Like Greco wine, Fiano from the province of Avellino has more character than most other Italian white wines. Fiano is also of Ancient Greek origin, and the Ancient Romans already knew it by the name Vitis Apianae, bee wine. The best Fiano wines are fresh, robust, balanced but complex wine with hints of peach and nut on the bouquet.
Unfortunately, there is little to be said of the other wines of Campania, the wines of coastal Campania, and its island white wines of Capri and Ischia, produce pleasant, summer wines, albeit in very small quantities which are rarely sold out of the area of production. As with all other Italian wine producing regions, Campania produces some very interesting single variety wines in some other DOC areas.  Aglianico del Taburno is pressed from the same variety as Taurasi. Falerno Rosso is a blend of Aglianico and Piedirosso but Falerno Bianco is mainly made from Falenghina. The various red and white wines from the Sannio region (where there are also interesting single grape variety wines using Barbera, Sangiovese and Trebbiano Toscano), and the Saint' Agata de' Goti (where the white wines are blends of Greco and Falanghina grapes and the reds are blends of Aglianico and Piedirosso). The DOC names such as Costa d'Amalfi, Penisola Sorrentina and Versuvio, on the other hand, which up until now have struck everyone as being popular, are often unfortunately far less convincing.

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